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We have met the Enemy and He is Us

Walt Kelly
Is it possible we are missing what causes the things we hate about
politics?
Is it conceivable it can actually be fixed?
There is little doubt that people are upset and disillusioned with the political process
of the day. We are not talking about a specific group of people but the entire
population of the world.
Be they Republican, Democrat, Libertarian,
Environmentalist, Pro Life, Pro Choice, European, Asian, rich, poor, taxpayer, welfare
recipient, etc., etc any daily newscast confirms that just about everyone is angry
about anything political. In an even broader sense, historically, this has pretty
much always been a constant element of human existence. As we continue to
listen to our candidates discuss their sincere desire to serve the public and correct
the multitude of perceived injustices, the problems continue and our hopes seem
doomed to eternal disappointment.
It doesnt seem possible that every conceivable cause and effect of this human
condition has not been considered and a solution sought. Perhaps we have missed
some underlying cause that we have not considered. This article hopes to provide a
new perspective that may change your understanding of these problems. It is an
unusual viewpoint that logically leads one to the realization that we may play a
more significant role in causing these problems than we realize. The anger that we
direct at our politicians and the political process may be self-fulfilling outcomes of
our own nature. Even more importantly, there may be a solution that has not been
considered before.
In order to establish a pathway to understanding this solution, it is necessary to
start the journey a bit further up the line of the political process so we can begin at
the beginning. We need to discuss the selection process whereby individuals elect
others to be their representative in a governance role. This process is well-known
and reasonably well-understood universally.
A period of campaigning generally occurs where individuals, seeking to become
representatives, utilize various forms of communication to inform the voters of their
positions, intentions, philosophical leanings and plans. At some specified point in
time, the voters can choose to participate by voting for the candidate of their
choice. These elections are invariably in the format of secret ballot and the
candidate with the most votes becomes the representative for the particular
constituency that has elected them.
This process is well-established and broadly accepted as appropriate.
It is
monitored very closely and numerous checks & balances exist in most free
countries. Internationally, when there is doubt about the integrity of the process,
we often insert monitors into the process to assure fairness. This is heavily focused
on assuring that the concept of secret ballot has not been compromised to the point

where coercion or oppression corrupts the ability of individuals to vote their


conscience.
Secret ballot voting is globally accepted as a major factor in assuring that votes
truly represent the opinions and desires of those voting. We take this principle for
granted today but it has really only been around since the mid nineteenth century.
Australia and New Zealand are usually credited with making secret ballot a legally
required process for public elections and this has been adopted globally as a
necessary element of a free elective process. To highlight the concept put forth in
this article, it is important for the reader to focus on this generally accepted
principle more closely.
One must ask oneself, Why is secret ballot so universally accepted?
In considering this question, the typical answers focus on the negative aspects that
occur in the absence of secret ballot like coercion, pressure, intimidation, bullying,
etc. This process has been so ingrained in our lives that many have never actually
been personally subjected to these negative consequences as related to a public
election process.
There are lots of other situations where we are exposed to 3 rd party coercion and
pressure but we might not connect that to the concept of secret ballot. It does
relate to our perception that to openly declare our opinion in some situations may
be at least uncomfortable or at worst personally dangerous. The academic field of
Group Dynamics has much to say on this aspect of human nature so there is no
shortage of scientific data on the subject.
So how does this lead one to a new perspective on the political process that may
change our understanding of the cause of actions that result in our disappointment
and anger? Let me try to connect the dots.
We must focus on the fundamentals of human nature that make the secret ballot
process work so well. When an individual feels safe in expressing their opinion, we
will get results that truly reflect the individuals conscience. The secret ballot
process assures this by keeping the individuals vote anonymous. We will know the
outcome of a vote but, we will not know how any specific individual voted on the
issue concerned. Since most issues have a variety of supporters and dissenters,
this assures any voter they will not have to face to wrath of a person or group with
an opposing position on the topic. Without the protection of anonymity, any voter
would have to consider a multitude of issues peripheral to the specific subject of the
vote. This may be as simple as disappointing a friend, as complex as defying a
group or as serious as jeopardizing ones job or life. As most realize, people will
generally act in their self-interest. When these other considerations are in play,
individuals may vote contrary to their conscience on the issue at hand because the
other concerns become more significant than the subject of the vote. It would not
be reasonable to expect anyone to put their livelihood, their familys safety or even
their life at risk in a vote on any controversial issue. There are many examples of
systems that demonstrate this principle.

One of the basic premises of free market economics recognizes that individuals
acting in their own best interest is a fundamental feature of freedom. Concepts that
recognize and allow the natural exercise of individual human nature seem to work
while those that violate those principles dont.
Ludwig von Mises entitled his celebrated economic text, Human Action in
recognition of this. Adam Smith expressed the requirement to allow the, Invisible
Hand to determine the actions of individuals in order for optimal economic
progress. The concept of, Laissez Faire economics is likewise aligned to allow
human beings to operate in tune with their basic nature.
Systems like socialism, communism, fascism, etc. all violate these principles and
invariably fail to accomplish their goal of improving the human experience. The
modern-day political process is trapped in this same contradiction.
In a political campaign we have the opportunity to listen to hopeful candidates tell
us how they want the chance to improve society as our elected representative. We
sometimes listen, sometimes hope they can actually do what they say and
sometimes vote for them trusting they can actually improve society via their role as
our representative. We are hopeful and supportive of their stated mission in the
face of historical disappointments from all who have gone before. We trust them
enough to vote for them and send them off to implement the improvements we
desire. I guess you could say we trust them to do whats right, fair, logical, etc.
Our representatives probably assume their role with a similar sense of hope in
improving our society (especially the first-timers). They would like to represent us
honorably, face issues head on with logical and fair resolutions. Unfortunately, they
soon realize that their ability to face issues head on and vote their conscience is
almost impossible. On every issue there are factors that overshadow the subject at
hand. Their party exercises power to coerce, special interest groups have the ability
to pressure, their financial supporters expect reciprocity, their constituents expect
to benefit, people with questionable ethics may even bribe or threaten them. All of
these 3rd parties have power to enforce their positions because they can verify how
their representative votes on all issues and therefore coerce conformance.
The very factor that makes us so adamant about protecting ourselves from these
external influences in a public election have been tossed out as unacceptable for
those who represent our interests in a governmental role.
We loudly and
consistently affirm our right to know how our representatives vote without
realizing the harm this causes. All the while we blame politicians, special interest
groups and corrupt individuals for the fact that the government does not address
the issues that concern us.
It is time we considered our role in insisting on a practice that assures our
representatives cannot actually deal with the issues of the day. Trusting politicians
to act responsibly is not the point in this concept. The well-established
understanding of human nature and group dynamics is the issue. Requiring open

balloting at the political level actually causes many of the problems that exist in the
political process. We have instituted a system that violates these well-understood
principles of human nature and its failure to accomplish our intended outcome is
guaranteed. We are facilitating, albeit unintentionally, the power brokers and
enabling their ability to eliminate any possibility of government by the people and
for the people. We need to address the cause of the problem instead of attacking
the inevitable outcome of this flawed system.
An outcry from the public, based on an informed understanding of the problem, is
the only way to eliminate open balloting in all political bodies. This is so counterintuitive to the norms of the day that building support for the concept will take time,
review and open discussion.
If you recognize the logical basis of this concept and would like to join the
movement to change this flawed system, you can join the Association to Improve
Government by emailing, adamsmith2.0@bell.net

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